The anti-Trump GOP Lincoln Project has acknowledged organizing a demonstration meant to draw a connection between Republican Glenn Youngkin's campaign for Virginia governor and a deadly white nationalist march in Charlottesville in 2017.
People dressed like some of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, and carrying tiki torches, stood by Youngkin's campaign bus Friday, drawing outrage — and speculation that it was a stunt initiated by Democrats.
The Lincoln Project argued that it staged the demonstration because of Youngkin's ties to former President Donald Trump, whose comments as commander in chief in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville were widely condemned.
"Today's demonstration was our way of reminding Virginia voters of what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican party's embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin's failure to condemn it," the Lincoln Project said in a statement.
But the group was blasted for the stunt and for defending it amid the Charlottesville rally trial that is underway.
Ahead of the statement by the Lincoln Project, Jen Goodman, a communications staffer for the campaign of Youngkin's opponent, Terry McAuliffe, and a number of other Democrats suggested Youngkin's campaign had dark racial undertones. Youngkin neither invited nor praised the group, the National Review reported.
Goodman retweeted a post calling the incident disgusting.
The Virginia Democratic Party also rebutted speculation about its alleged involvement in the stunt, releasing a statement denying it had anything to do with the torch-holders, according to the National Review.
"The Democratic Party of Virginia, along with its coordinated partners and its affiliates, did not have any role today in the events that happened outside of the Youngkin campaign bus stop today," the statement said, the National Review reported.
"What happened in Charlottesville four years ago was a tragedy and one of the darkest moments in our state's recent memories and is an event not to be taken lightly. For anyone to accuse our staff to have a role in this event is shameful and wrong."
Over the last 24 hours, Youngkin has taken leads in Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight polling averages.
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